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Location: Penang, Malaysia

September 26, 2006

Parable - The Lonely Ember

After completing my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination, there was a period that we were kind of "free to explore the world" for a short while. SPM is the Malaysian equivalent to the British General Certificate of Education - Ordinary Level (GCE 'O' Level). While waiting for the result, many of us were very eager to try out what it was like in the real working world. At the same time, some of us took some short courses as well, but that will be another story on its own. Earning some pocket money was something great rather than asking from our parents.

One of the interesting places to work was the KFC outlet. Back then it was still known as Kentucky Fried Chicken. Every year, this is the time for companies that need temporary manpower to recruit people. Between the employer and the potential employee, there is something known as "connection". Friends introducing friends. A friend of mine told me that there were a few vacancies in the "sales and marketing" line. The working world was very new to us and of course, we were pretty eager to "contribute to the total household income".

We joined a direct selling company. Well, it was really a direct selling company where we were paid a low monthly salary and we got commissions from our individual sales. Very much different than today's multi-level marketing companies where you have to join as a member, pay membership fees, "front loading", "you-don't-have-to-sell-anything", blah, blah, blah... disgusting. We were taught to do product demonstrations in a way that exaggerate the capability of the products. We learned the psychology of doing sales as well. Anyway, we later knew that the majority of the public did not welcome our presence too.

At that time, the Swedish Electrolux products were not sold in stores in this part of the world. They were sold though the direct selling method. The cheapest appliance was the vacuum cleaner which carried a hefty price tag of RM 1300, i.e. about USD 520 (In those days, the exchange rate was USD 1 = RM 2.50). Due to the nature of the job, team spirit was very important. We also had to ensure that all of us attended all the training sessions. During one of the training sessions, our team lead, Golf Papa, a man in his early forties at that time, shared with us a parable. By the way, he is a Christian. I found the story on The StoryBin recently and here it goes.

A member of a certain church, who previously had been attending services regularly, stopped going.

After a few weeks, the pastor decided to visit him. It was a chilly evening. The pastor found the man at home alone, sitting before a blazing fire.

Guessing the reason for his pastor's visit, the man welcomed him, led him to a big chair near the fireplace and waited. The pastor made himself comfortable but said nothing. In the grave silence, he contemplated the play of the flames around the burning logs.

After some minutes, the pastor took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then he sat back in his chair, still silent. The host watched all this in quiet fascination.

As the one lone ember's flame diminished, there was a momentary glow and then its fire was no more. Soon it was cold and "dead as a doornail."

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.

Just before the pastor was ready to leave, he picked up the cold, dead ember and placed it back in the middle of the fire. Immediately it began to glow once more with the light and warmth of the burning coals around it.

As the pastor reached the door to leave, his host said, "Thank you so much for your visit and especially for the fiery sermon. I shall be back in church next Sunday."


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